In "So Long a Letter," what is the significance of the theme of betrayal on Ramatoulaye's behavior? What is the importance of betrayal in the novel?

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bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Betrayal is seen throughout the story in the customs of the Sengalese people. Husbands are expected to take more than one wife, and it is a shame to the husband's family if he doesn't, as is the case with Aissatou, the woman to whom Ramatoulaye is writing. Aissatou's mother-in-law forced her son to take a second wife, and Aissatou saw this as a betrayal of her husband's love for her, so she divorced him. In her case, Aissatou is betrayed by both her husband and her mother-in-law. Ramatoulaye stays married to her husband after he takes a younger wife and abandons Ramatoulaye and her children. She doesn't allow her anger of her husband's betrayal to emerge until after his death. It is then that she shows the strength to be able to refuse marriage to her husband's brother and an old boyfriend who stilled loved her. She knew she could never inflict the pain on other women that she had felt when her husband took another wife. Throughout the story, Ramatoulaye is conflicted about the traditions of Islam and her society. Her religion comforts her in one aspect, but she recognizes how unjust polygamy is. Her behavior is based on this conflict until the end, when she's able to come to terms with how she feels.

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So Long a Letter

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